Belly Up to a Body Bar


Several weeks ago I told you about shampoo bars from Apple Valley Natural Soap. Well I’ve also started using their body bars, and love those as well. My skin hasn’t felt this clean, soft and moisturized in ages and it never feels like there is any residual on my skin. My favorite (so far) is the Coconut Soap Bar. It lathers up really well, which is important to me as I shave in the shower and find it difficult to do that if a soap doesn’t lather well but this bar is amazing. It doesn’t have much of a scent, which is fine, I’m happier with the sudsing. There are also shaving specific bars for men.  It also seems like the bars last a long time. My husband and I are both using the bar, and I had really expected we’d have gone through it by now, but there is a lot left, and we started with only a half bar!  While their regular items are great, they also have items that are seasonal but be aware that seasonal means “when they’re gone, they’re gone.” I’ve just ordered some winter bars with extra moisturizers in them, which most of us that live in the midwest are desperate for this time of year.  The other bar that I love is their Kitchen Salt and Spice Bar. This is fantastic for washing your hands after you’ve worked with onions or garlic to get the smell off. I keep it next to the sink on a soap mat so that it doesn’t get all mushy. (Those little soap mats are fantastic too, I have 2 in the shower!)

I also recently ordered Vanilla Tangerine whipped body butter, and oh my God. I can’t decide if I like this more because it makes my skin feel awesome, or for how it smells. When I first put it on, I could swear I smelled chocolate and my husband thought it smelled like fresh cookies. After I looked at the ingredients again, I realized I was smelling the cocoa butter and thought, yeah, that’s what’s making me want to lick my arm. Repeatedly. It’s like a slice of heaven in winter, and I just ordered a second tub of it. Their Shea Butter is great too, although it’s different than the body butter. I am using that more on my hands to try to keep winter dry skin at bay. It’s more like a semi-solid but softens up with the warmth of your skin.

The company works hard at being eco friendly and sustainable. Their packaging reflects that – my cousin ordered some liquid Castile hand soap (that smelled unbelievable), and it came in the most unique packaging, made out of bamboo and sugarcane pulp. It’s 98% biodegradable, according to their site. I have also ordered a Christmas edition of the liquid hand soap, and if you’re a fan of foaming soap they say right on the site you can dilute their soap to work in foaming dispensers. The other thing that is unique about them is that so far for me, at least, each order has come with a small sample of a soap. So far each one has been unique, and has been something I haven’t already tried. I don’t know if that’s coincidence or careful planning and smart marketing, but from what I have been able to pick up about Marianne so far I’ll go with careful planning and smart marketing.

This is a great site on which to do some Christmas shopping. They’re great at making sure if something is out of stock they apply a banner stating that and some things are but there are lots of things in stock. I wouldn’t suggest waiting too long or the limited edition/seasonal offerings will be gone.  If you go to the section for gifts you can also purchase a gift box and you’re shopping is done! Order now and avoid the Christmas rush, and also ensure that it will arrive well in advance of Christmas. Plus get some goodies for yourself…you deserve to be pampered, and this is a fine way to do it. Curl up with a book, a cup of cocoa after you’ve slathered body butter over yourself and bask in the scents.



A New Way to ‘Poo…Shampoo That Is!

Several years ago, I attended a silent auction/fundraiser for my niece’s sorority. They did a brunch every year, a kind of mother-daughter event with invitations extended to friends, close relatives, etc. I remember one year the speaker was a classmate of hers, a very young woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her talk was informative, educating us on the BRCA2 gene, as well as some surprising risk factors. One of those risk factors was something called Parabens, which are commonly found in things like shampoo, conditioner, liquid soaps, etc. While I paid attention to her, I also didn’t make any changes to my personal care routines.

About 6 weeks ago I was reading some random articles and found an interesting one that has made me rethink my choices about personal care, initially for a different reason. The article was about using shampoo bars, and why they make so much more sense than traditional shampoo. First, traditional shampoo is primarily water, and second, it’s packaged in a plastic container. So, you’re paying for something you don’t need, and getting it in a package you need to throw away (or preferably recycle, but realistically, most people don’t do that.) I started thinking about it, and figured what the heck, why not try it. The speech from my niece’s classmate came back to me, and since we have some rare cancers in my family I thought it would be smart from the perspective of my health.  I was really lucky to discover that one of the companies featured in the article is not only local for me, but 15 minutes from my home.

Apple Valley Natural Soaps has a wonderful variety of shampoo bars, body bars, lotions, rinses, and other natural care products. They also have an informative blog to help you understand the products and how to select the right one, their philosophy of caring for yourself with natural products, and a great business model. After doing some research, I dove in. I ordered several different samples of shampoo bars ($3 each) and a soap mat (use one of these for your soap so the water drains off and doesn’t make your bar all mushy) and started using them.

Do you remember the last time your hair was actually squeaky clean? I didn’t, but from the first time I used their bar, my hair squeaked. Literally, squeaked. It took a couple of times of washing for my hair to settle in but it’s at the point now where I have minimal tangling in the shower, or afterwards. I don’t use a traditional conditioner anymore either, just their acidic rinse once a week. That’s all. My hair is so crazy soft. Why I waited so long to change to shampoo bars is beyond me. Now my biggest problem is picking out the right bar. (One thing to be aware of, these shampoo bars don’t work unless you have soft water, and I definitely noticed a difference in sudsing when our softener salt was low.)header 7

One of the things I love about this company is that it’s doing well enough to have a great variety of products, but is small enough that the owner, Marianne Buck is involved and hands-on with all parts of the business. Last week I sent her an email with a recommendation for an addition to the information about her shampoo bars, and a few hours later she had not only responded but said she liked the idea and would work on implementing it. And if you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, she offers local pick up so that you can save on shipping. Their turn around time is quick too, which is nice. They’re also very customer centric – after I placed my order, I realized I’d selected the wrong shampoo bar, and as I prepared to email her about it, I got the email that my order was ready. I sent Marianne an email anyhow and asked if she would be willing to change out the bar, and she replied that she was more than willing to do that. I had also let her know when I ordered that I was getting the Camping bar for my husband, as he was preparing for a camping trip, so could I have it by a certain date? She filled my order in plenty of time for me to get it for him to bring along.

I don’t know about you, but companies with outstanding customer service are rare, and Apple Valley Natural Soap definitely is one of those. In the interest of full disclosure, I did sign up to be an affiliate with them, but only because I really love these products, if you hadn’t figured that out already. If you’ve thought about trying a shampoo bar but weren’t sure if it was something you’d like, give this company a try. All of the reviews I’ve read have been outstanding. Buy some sample bars to try them out and see what you think. Click here to go to the site. I’d love to hear if you try out their products and what you think.




I’ve noticed that the more we’re quarantined from our old lives, the more I’m irritated by stuff that I used to blow off. I’m sure it’s because like everyone, tensions are just generally higher so our fuses are shorter. It can’t possibly be that there are more stupid people out there (can it?).

Over the past couple of years, I’ve sold a number of things on eBay and I’ve begun to notice things that just don’t make sense.  I’ve noticed when I list an item with a “Buy It Now” price, I’ll often see it shows with a number of folks “watching” it.  I just can’t help but think to myself “huh?  What are you watching it FOR?” Watching an item makes sense if it’s something in an auction, you see what happens, how many people bid on it, how high the price goes and you drop out if it’s too high, or get in on the action at the last moment.  But with a “Buy It Now” item, the price is what the price is.  If you’re interested enough to watch it, good grief, buy it.  I mean I can understand if it had been listed for a while and you want to see if perhaps the price will drop but for items that are likely to sell fast, and are newly listed at an appropriate price, well you snooze, you lose.

On those same lines, I’ve also dipped my toe into the world of online garage sales through Facebook a few times, and while my neighbor seems to be really successful at selling her things, I am not.  I don’t think it’s pricing, but honestly, I’m not sure what it is.  All I know is that I am continually getting messages like these:

“Is this still available?”

I’ll reply it is, and then that’s it.  I’m ghosted.  Not even the courtesy of a “thanks, but no thanks” or “I’ve changed my mind”.  Just nothing.  So, I’m done with Facebook sales, folks are just too inconsiderate there. 

When I’m on a website and there’s a dropdown to select criteria for something, why am I forced to actually go and choose that criteria when it’s the only one?  My bank, Wings Financial, has a nice mobile app and offers online deposits, which I love.  But when you go to the deposit option, it asks which account you want to deposit to, and when I select it, I find there is only one option.  WHY?  If you have only one, then for the love of God, make it the default, or better yet, don’t make me choose it at all but bypass it and go to the next step.  Worse yet?  When I go to a website that I’ve been to before and see that it says “Hello, Beth” but forces me to log in before I can put in an order.  It clearly knows it’s me, it greeted me!  Why do I need to log in again?  Argh.

I was on a work call the other day as they were talking about how we want to work harder on more digital.  We are all asked to think about ways we can do that in our areas, and the comment was made that our organization has tried several different apps for member engagement and they really haven’t worked.  I’m pretty sure I know why.  When companies come up with an idea for a new end user app, it goes like this:

“Hey, how about we give our members an app to let them do ABC?”

“Sure, that’s awesome!  Go for it”

And a team from the company comes together.  They follow a playbook of how to do this: What is the concept, who will use it, what do we want them to get out of it, how will they get the info, how will they access it, how will it look, etc.  Then a mock up is done, an app is built and tested and if it works, it’s rolled out.  What’s missing from this picture?  Well, a) did anyone even think to ASK end users if they like they idea and b) assuming they do, did anyone ASK THEM how they want it to look, feel and work?  All I could think about when I heard the leader on the call say our previous efforts didn’t work was that it’s probably because we fail to ask the people who use the app what they want and how they want it to work, like the previously mentioned bank app.  Maybe if more companies did that, they’d have happier customers.  The same holds true for business web pages.  It looks to me like many of them have a web designer who follows some instructions on what to do, but fails to either test it or fails to ask some end users to trial it and provide feedback.  As a result, the pages are something less than useful.  A good example is with Bed, Bath and Beyond.  I was looking for something there, and clicked to sort by price lowest to highest.  I then went and added filters, clicked apply and noticed it defaulted back to sort by Most Popular.  So, I selected sort by “Lowest to Highest Price” again and it removed my filters!  What the heck.  I tweeted the company and to their credit they did reply, but it remains to be seen if they actually fix it. 

And finally, something that will make you tilt your head and say “huh?” We found this the other day on a package of new mens underwear:


Honestly, when was the last time YOU ironed YOUR underwear?

What kinds of kooky nonsense do you see in your world?


Bold Statements

Recently my husband and I took our first trip out of town since before the pandemic started. As we prepared for the trip, one of the things we noticed about preparation is that it’s a little bit like muscle memory – not doing it for a long time means that it’s difficult the first time, but you know it’s going to get easier again with subsequent trips. We brought a few things we didn’t need, and left behind one or two we could have used. But all in all, we did well for that first trip in well over a year.

We did what all fine Minnesotans do at some point in their lives: went up north. We have a friend that moved to northwestern Minnesota about 5 years ago after his retirement, and his place is out in the middle of, well, almost nowhere. 40 acres of peace, quiet and ultimate tranquility – almost. We did have to put up with 4-wheelers going by from time to time, but other than that, it was wonderful. We just chilled out, watched hummingbirds fly in and out from the feeder, tried to identify mystery birds that flew in and out, and enjoyed a lovely fire in the firepit when the wind died off in the evening.

We also had time to explore his property a bit, which was an adventure. There used to be a working farm on the site, which is long gone now. None of the original buildings remain, and his house sits in a different spot from where the original buildings were. The only structure that is there that might have been used by the original farm site is a corral, which my husband and I decided we needed to explore. The corral is now completely overgrown, and  as we made our way in past the loading ramp, which has side support boards only but nothing left to step on, and around to the side, where he got inside we were both startled when something scurried through the overgrowth and away from us. We never saw it very well but think it might have been a woodchuck.

Inside the corral we found 3 large plastic bins that appear to be for grease collection from restaurants. laying across them was a tall metal structure that might have been from a windmill, and we’re speculating it was there to keep the lids on the bins. About 6 feet from them was a galvanized steel watering trough that was upside down, and probably the only salvageable thing there. Turn it over and fill it with dirt, could make a cool planter!

As we finished up our walk in the woods, as all properly born and bred Minnesotans know you need to do a tick check, so we brushed off our clothes, then went inside and did a better check to make sure we hadn’t missed any. I even told our host I wasn’t worried, as I’ve been out in the woods a fair amount and haven’t had a tick since I was a kid. I really shouldn’t have said that, because of course bold statements like that will always get you in trouble. Fast forward to bedtime, and as I was about ready to hop in bed I happened to look down and spotted something brown below my knee that just didn’t want to come off. Yep, picked up a nasty little hitch hiker that somehow crawled up my pantleg and onto me. Fortunately my husband is great with a tweezers and was able to successfully pull him off me. I turned to let him check the rest of my legs, and danged if there wasn’t ANOTHER one on the back of my other leg behind the knee. I swear, I was so completely creeped out at that point, I scrubbed my scalp with my fingertips about 5 times before I got into bed, and I have no idea how I got to sleep. I woke up around 3 am, and was trying to go back to sleep when I had the strangest sensation of something moving on my collarbone. You guessed it…I had a third one. Fortunately that dude was still moving and I was able to pull him off REALLY fast. I only feel slightly bad about waking up husband to squash the thing dead in the middle of the night. I am pretty sure they weren’t deer ticks, just garden variety wood ticks, but honestly, who cares? They’re all nasty.

After we got back home, I happened to see a news story about how this year we have a bumper crop of wood ticks, due to all the rain and cool spring we had. Just lovely, although I did learn some interesting things about them that I hadn’t known. They tend to be on tall grasses and weeds in the shade – so if you’re hiking through the woods where there is lots of undergrowth, that’s where they will be. They hang out on the plants, waiting for some poor, unsuspecting fool to walk by, and then they jump on board. Their front legs have hooks on the ends, a little like velcro, so that they can grab on. If you are ‘lucky’ enough to have one on you, watch when you pull it off. You can see the little tiny hook feet kind of tug at your skin.  Where you won’t find them is in an open field in the sun, because UV desiccates them. That’s right, dang things are like vampires…stick ’em in the sun and they fry!  So my takeaway from our trip is to not make bold statements, and to avoid the vampires AND wood ticks take walks in the sun. Just remember your sunscreen.

Past Behavior Interviews Without Skills Analysis is a Predictor for Disaster

I read an article recently by Henry Claypool, policy director for the Community Living Policy Center at Brandeis University in which he discussed the risks and challenges of using Artificial Intelligence and automation to screen candidates for employment. He talked about how using these can be a recipe for discrimination with respect to people with disabilities, and described how companies are using tools and techniques such as resume screeners, which review candidates’ CVs for desired keywords, e.g. leadership on a sports team; sentiment analysis tools, which purport to analyze candidates’ movements during video interviews; and game-based tests, in which a candidate’s performance during an online game is compared to the performance of existing employees at the company ( NBC News Think Job Hiring.)

The practices he discusses have been going on for at least 15 years now. I can remember being told as a new manager in the early 2000’s that “past performance is the best predictor of future behavior” by the HR representative teaching a group of us about how to interview prospective candidates with the new tool that was developed. No more questions geared toward “what are your skills in A, B and C” but instead, they were proscriptive in defined categories, asking things like “tell me about a time when you were in a difficult situation. What did you do and what was the outcome?” Or perhaps “tell me about a time when you were faced with an ethical dilemma at work. What did you do? Were there repercussions?” Furthermore, we were no longer allowed to ask questions off the cuff, but were to limit them to either the list of prepared questions from HR, or at most, we could deviate by saying “tell me more about that”. But coming up with our own? No way.

I’m not saying answers to those questions aren’t important; they may be, and depending on the role they might even be critical. However, I’ve also seen an increasing and disturbing trend happening as well. By not asking what skills workers possess, and how proficient they are in those skills, we see a whole crop of nice people hired with soft skills that are somewhere between good to excellent, who show up for work and try their best but then stumble with hard skills and we scratch our heads puzzlement as to why.

I’ve worked in a call center where staff needed to have those soft skills, certainly but they also needed to know how to work on computers and to do so efficiently, effectively, and to be able to troubleshoot issues that come up. They needed to know how to navigate the internet, use a SharePoint, and multitask efficiently. Managers for these people needed to be able to look at excel spreadsheets to evaluate the data on their employees, understand trends and metrics and know how to make decisions accordingly. They needed to be skilled enough in technology to help their staff troubleshoot when something isn’t working correctly and decide when it’s time to call the help desk. I would guess it’s the same everywhere: if the only questions asked during interviews are around things like “tell me about a time when you felt like you were treated unfairly. What did you do?” it’s little wonder that staff and managers both struggle in their respective roles. I really don’t know why anyone is surprised. We don’t ask if they know anything about technology, or know how to add formulas to a spreadsheet, but we get frustrated when they can’t do the work that is expected.

The statement that past performance IS a good predictor of future behavior assumes that none of us learn from the past, whether good experiences or mistakes. It also assumes that none of our behaviors change, and that simply isn’t true at all. I’m not the same person I was 5 or even 10 years ago. My experiences during that time have informed my thoughts and what my behavior will be now, asking me what I did THEN isn’t really relevant. Ask me what I CAN do, what skills I’ve learned or developed. Maybe I haven’t been a manager for a few years, but in that time, I may have found a mentor and met weekly with that person, taken classes and volunteered someplace in my community. Or, maybe I was really immature and impulsive a few years ago but something happened to me that forced me to take a hard look at myself and I grew up. Since that time, I’ve learned to take a different approach to things, perhaps becoming more measured and thoughtful in my decision making. All of those things will shape my thoughts and actions and I know that I would respond to a situation very differently now than I would have without them. If a hiring manager only looks at that past behavior as the predictor of future actions, what kind of picture will be painted?

Furthermore, once in a role, I’ve never once had a manager ask me “so how did you handle this before?” when we tried to work through something. They might say “what do you think you should do?” or “what are your recommendations for handling this?” but they never have revisited the past behaviors concept. So, does it even have any value in the ongoing day-to-day work place? In the moment you’re taking the things you’ve learned and applying them to that particular situation as you try to find an appropriate solution to a problem.

Mr. Claypool goes on to say in his article that “We need employers, technologists and disabled people to make sure the hiring and retention of employees don’t rely on flawed algorithms that inadvertently or intentionally result in disability discrimination. They can begin by designing hiring tools that only measure essential functions of particular jobs, taking into account the alternative ways that disabled people can carry out job-related tasks.” I would stipulate that starts with moving away from the current style of interviewing and reincorporate the skills component again, asking candidates “tell me about what you can do.” If HR experts think that behavioral based interviewing has to remain, then it needs to evolve, advancing into a second phase that incorporates questions like “and would you do the same thing now? If not, why not?” or “How would your response change today?” Only then can we hire the correctly qualified candidates into jobs.


What’s a Picture Worth?

I have a husband who is good with projects. He’s creative, finds solutions, puts his own spin on it and voila!, problem solved and we have this repaired/renovated/new thing we didn’t have before that looks amazing. He gets out his phone and takes a picture of this thing and then I hear it:

“I sure wish we’d take a picture of this [insert project name here] before I started….”

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve both said that exact same phrase over the last 20 years. You’d think by now we’d have caught on and learned, right? The reality is, while we are catching on, we get the before photo maybe 20% of the time. Most of the time we think about it halfway in, when we’ve either started digging, moved furniture, or have half a structure built. We do get the photos then, and at the completion too, but it’s tougher to share the change with family and friends if they a) have never visited our house or b) haven’t been here in a while and don’t recall what it looked like in the first place.

This past year, confined to home as much as we were, quite a few more projects were tackled including painting the kitchen cabinets, building an enclosure for the garbage cans, adding a stepping stone path from the patio to the shed, building shelves for our CD and record collection, painting our front door and updating a bathroom. I think we had before photos for everything except where the CD and records went, (and he may have actually done that too), so I was thinking we really might have kicked that bad habit until a few days ago. He was getting ready to begin the second part of a project when I heard “I wish we had a picture of this from before we started”.

The other part of taking the before and after however, is the ‘in-betweens’, which I define as getting the photos of all of the work that went into the project and making the magic happen, and my husband is awesome at that. I think projects are like labor pains – once you see your finished project and how great it looks, you forget all about the pain and difficulty it took to get there. But having those in-betweens? You’ll never forget. Our project photos for the front door are time and date stamped, so of course I will always know we did it over my long July 4 weekend off from work, but they also remind me of how beastly hot and humid it was, and of the fact that the damn door had 5 – FIVE – coats of paint (including the primer) on it that needed to come off because it had bubbled and cracked, and when it had been painted before they used a roller and flat paint so all of the roughness showed. Our photos show the multiple coats of citrus stripper, the mess in the garage, our open front door being taped cover with a couple of huge pieces of cardboard to keep the house air conditioned. They don’t show that we pushed the coffee table against the cardboard and stacked stuff on that, so in case anyone tried to come through the cardboard it would make a horrid racket and wake us up. Not that we would wake up anyhow, since we were sleeping 10 feet away on our sleeper sofa. I don’t need photos for that!

The project photos also help me remember how we tried to seal off the kitchen with plastic so that dust from sanding wouldn’t go everywhere in the house. I kind of felt like I was in some sort of biohazard zone, wearing my particle mask so as not to inhale microscopic varnish bits. Yeah, like I could forget THAT! (Actually I probably could, it bordered on traumatic.)

2021 is still young, maybe we’ll only forget this once.

Now that it’s all said and done, here are a few of our 2020 projects, before and after. Just don’t ask to see the ‘in-betweens’.

Befores Afters

Staying Virus Free

It’s a frightening time to be in our world, isn’t it? Many of us in developed countries have heard the word pandemic, but never really expected to be living smack dab in the middle of one. After all, we have great health care (not always affordable, but that’s an argument for another day), food, shelter, (most of us), and can do fun things like going to a library to read books by our favorite medical authors (it’s a great time to discover Carrie Rubin). Now, in what feels like the blink of an eye, we are overwhelmed by life as dictated by COVID19.

I’m lucky that in my day job I get information about COVID almost as fast as it changes, so I’ve pulled some of the most relevant things together here for everyone. I’m guessing by now most of this isn’t new, but even refreshers are good.  If you have a blog, please feel free to repost and share. If you have information that I didn’t include, let me know and I’ll update the post. Disclaimer: While I’ll share what I’ve learned and will include links to the CDC or WHO sites, please confirm all information for yourself. I am not taking responsibility if you don’t clean well enough or don’t fully educate yourself, nor am I a replacement for the CDC or your state’s Department of Health.

If you’re wondering why it’s called COVID19, that comes from COronaVIrus Disease 2019. Well, I suppose they had to abbreviate it somehow, and that’s probably as good as any. It’s primarily spread through droplets, meaning if I have it (regardless of whether or not I have symptoms) and I cough and send invisible droplets with the virus out into the air, if you inhale some, or land on surfaces you touch, and you then touch your mouth, nose, eyes etc, you can get it too. Symptoms of the virus can be found here at the CDC website and I’d rather you go there for specific and expert advice on that because they can vary.

Here’s a little info about COVID19, it’s what is called an envelope virus, meaning it has an outer covering that can be disrupted. If it is, it dies. Soap will disrupt it, as will alcohol and peroxide, and potentially heat and low humidity. So lathering up your hands, breaks up that envelope, and washes off the virus. The CDC recommends both cleaning AND disinfecting surfaces. You can use soap and water to clean, then something else to disinfect. And of course THAT’s where it can be difficult, because we all know that bleach and sanitizing wipes have been in very short supply. I’m starting to see them back in the supplies again but amounts you can purchase are limited. One thing to note: Pay attention with the wipes for how long they need to be in contact with a surface to be effective, as it varies. Some are 30 seconds, others are 4 minutes. How do you know? Keep reading.

There was an interesting article on CNN recently about the published list of acceptable disinfectants against COVID19. You can find that list here  by clicking on the link for “the tool” and to use it you will need to know something called an EPA Registration Number. What’s that, you ask? Well, on each container of wipes there is some information on it that you NEVER paid attention to before, which is the EPA Registration number, or EPA REG NO. On my Target Up and Up branded wipes, it was on the front lower left, and looks like this:8D79B400-B4EB-4B20-979C-27A4300F1A3B

Everything like this that’s made is supposed to have a number, and here is the interesting part; with something like Up and Up, they don’t make their own product, it’s made for them by someone else. If that item has the identical formula as another product, then they have to have the same EPA REG NO, even if the brand names are different. So you can cross check wipes, liquids, gels, sprays, whatever is on the list to see if the number on your product is on here. If it is, then it’s an acceptable disinfectant for COVID19 according to the CDC. Remember to bookmark the site and recheck it too, I had looked for these wipes about 10 days ago and they were not on the list, and today they are.

When you enter the number you’ll see something like this:Screen Shot 2020-12-08 at 6.28.50 AMThat shows that it works for COVID, and that it needs to stay on the surface for 4 minutes to work. So make sure your surface is wet enough that it will stay wet for 4 full minutes, otherwise you might as well have not bothered. I also tried to look up my generic bleach, and found that it did not have an EPA number, so I searched by ingredient instead. What I found was that there is a variety of contact times for sodium hypochlorite (bleach) depending on brand. Who knew?

I’ve also learned that the virus lives pretty well on plastic and steel but not as well on cardboard or copper. This graphic from the New England Journal of Medicine (sourced from Business Insider) has helpful info:

Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 10.21.46 AM

It apparently can also live for a few days on fabric…so you might want to consider changing clothing when you get home if you’ve been out shopping and toss the others in the wash.

However here are some things I’ve learned about preventing the spread.

  • Wipe down groceries when you bring them in the house
  • Wash clothes in the hottest water you can, and with a bleach detergent if possible.
  • Dry several times on the hottest setting you can.
  • Wash. Your. Hands. Yes, really. Save the hand sanitizer folks, for when you go out. First of all, you can’t buy the damn stuff anyhow right now, why waste what you have. Second, the CDC has said that washing with soap and water for a good 20 seconds is MORE effective than sanitizer.

Amidst all this, don’t forget to be kind to each other, look out for each other, rest well, eat right and try to get outside and get exercise by walking or biking if you can. Remaining healthy both mentally and physically will help do a lot to keep your immune system functioning!

Oh yeah, and wear a damn mask. Just remember: DE2A4F83-BF81-4AF2-AFF5-1CC5B846B388

Advice from F. Scott Fitzgerald

After making a grocery store run the other day, I’d just finished wiping the packaging down and my husband was starting to put things away when he made an interesting observation. “There’s an awful lot of exclamation points on the packages. Just about everything has one.”

We started looking at the packaging of prepared foods and snacks, and it was readily apparent how right he was. I took some pictures and here are a few examples:


Even Ree Drummond’s jar of marinara sauce had to get in on the act. 4C658059-7069-4587-844C-79C866130BB2

On the back label, where it describes the sauce, the end of the paragraph reads “…it’s a cheese lover’s dream!”

Apparently the exclamation point has been around since the 1500s, and was a derivation from “io” which was an expression of joy. Eventually it morphed into being written with the I over the O to shorten up space. Who knew? (It should also not be confused with the catchy chant from down under that is heard at sporting events, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” immediately followed by “Oi, oi, oi!” But that’s spelled differently and as far as I can tell, doesn’t mean anything other than a general “we love you, support you and are tipping a pint in your honor, mate!”

Since then, marketing ‘geniuses’ everywhere have co-opted the exclamation point and want us to THINK it means something akin to joy, when it really just means “I want you to think you can’t live without me.”617DC9B1-6357-4EF3-9FCD-95F0535C6FA9 Obviously it’s working, otherwise they wouldn’t continue doing it. Even on healthy choices, they’re using it to make you feel good about what you just picked up. “You made this choice, it healthy, how smart of you.” Or maybe the message is “Well aren’t you the good planner. F531EBBB-E2DF-48FE-B547-E614D30500F1Your gathering will be special because you have enough crackers. It’s a family size box and you won’t run out, no one will be hungry or feel slighted. But what would happen if it weren’t there? Would you still buy the product? Of course you would. The bigger question is, are you driven to buy one brand over the other because of the exclamation point? I’m going to guess probably not, unless you’re either a) trying a completely new product or b) that exclamation point is part of something else in the packaging that caught your eye, such as telling you that it has “30% more!” in the package. Seriously, would you buy it if the label just said “!”? Of course not, it’s the “30%” that gets your attention.

It isn’t limited to foods, either. The cover of a clothing catalog had this at the bottom:

“10% off! Details on Back Cover ⎮ 100+ NEW GIFT IDEAS INSIDE!”

And this isn’t some new phenomenon either. I’ve been working on selling some HO scale trains on eBay, that had belonged to my father, and included in them are some of the catalogs he’d ordered from including a Tyco 1972-73 and several Fleischmanns. On the back page of the Tyco the description accompanying the photo for the Super Road and Rail ( a combination slot car and train set up) “Two complete sets in one!”.  The inside cover of the Fleischmann catalog from 1973 has this:C8559C02-A54A-48AF-A613-B5A9C471B353_1_201_a

For the curious, if my Google Translate is doing it’s thing correctly, here is the translation (for my Canadian and French-speaking friends, please correct any mistakes!).

Hey! Friends! Embark and take a seat on a dream trip through the Hobby Kingdom. This is what is Extraordinary at FLEISCHMANN! You realize every moment that all fabrications are the result of a fundamental principle of precision, a constant study of quality and a continual tendency towards perfection. Everything matches and everything adapts, which is why the name “FLEISCHMANN” is the best guarantee for your confidence in a quality article. FLEISCHMANN is your protector against boredom! Whether you only have a few minutes or several hours! With FLEISCHMANN you have a permanent passport for permanent fun, which is why we wish you “Bon Voyage”. Sale to the consumer is only through retail stores. We will be happy to give you the addresses of our dealers. and rights reserved. By the publication of this catalog, all previous catalogs and current prices are canceled. – All modifications Printed in Germany INN 8.73 Ho Any advice will be gladly given to you by your retailer.”

Next time you’re at the store, or even shopping online, look at the labels of things and see if you notice it. Once we started looking, it was goofy how many we found in a single grocery trip.

By now you’re probably starting to wonder, what in the world does F. Scott Fitzgerald, that great literary genius of “The Great Gatsby” fame, have to do with exclamation points and grocery stores? The answer is quite a bit, actually. He once said this, and it’s rather apt:

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

I have to admit, I wholeheartedly agree.

You Want More of This…?

As we move closer to election day, we continue to hear more alarming things come out of Trump’s mouth on an almost daily basis. He’s setting the stage for a coup, to enable himself to become the dictator of the Trumpian States of America. Amazingly, there are people who believe this is a fine idea, because why not? These last four years have been a grand ride, why not do this all the time?

Folks, you really aren’t seeing the long view, are you? Once one piece of our Constitution is broken, it all can go. We are guaranteed to have free and fair elections, and a peaceful transfer of power. If Trump removes that and declares himself the winner either by having the senators determine the electoral vote, or simply by not leaving, then what is to stop him from telling us the rest of the Constitution is null and void as well?  You know all the screaming you’ve done about having your 2nd Amendment rights violated, and that a candidate from the Democratic party is infringing on that? Or how awful you think ‘Obamacare’ or the ACA is? Or what about the fact that you’ve been able to speak up at all? If you haven’t thought about that, well, now is the time.

All you need do is look around you at life under other dictators, and it’s pretty easy to see that what you think of as being a pleasure cruise, will become just another nightmare. Gun rights? Gone. That freedom to speak your mind, travel where you want to and stand in front of a government building, throwing fire bombs, smoke bombs or just f-bombs? Gone. (Not that those were good ideas in the first place.) Want to work where you want to, or do what you want to? Gone. Don’t think the rules of the ACA are right, or that it should even exist at all? Then I imagine you’ll love government run Trumpcare, which will determine what benefits you have, and how much money is allocated for those benefits. If they don’t put enough money toward it because this year Trump doesn’t want to, then either you pony up out of pocket, or you just don’t get that medicine because you aren’t allowed to. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re on the side of anarchy now, doesn’t mean you get any kind of a pass later. No, you’ll just be Citizen No. 12657390. Just as likely – perhaps more so – to get tossed in jail for activities against the state. Think not? Check these out…

Gun laws in Dictatorships

Russia: According to the Library of Congress, “Individuals are not allowed to carry guns acquired for self-defense; a license only serves as a carrying permit for hunting and sport firearms when these guns need to be transported. Russian citizens may not own guns that shoot in bursts or have magazines with more than a ten-cartridge capacity.”

In North Korea, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law.

In China, Civilian ownership of firearms is largely restricted to non-individual entities such as sporting organizations, hunting reserves, and wildlife protection, management and research organizations. The chief exception to the general ban for individual gun ownership is for the purpose of hunting.

Cuba: In Cuba, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law, and civilians are not allowed to possess pen guns, cane rifles, rifles with a calibre greater than 5.6 millimeters, machine and sub-machine guns of any kind, home-made firearms, shortened shotguns, firearms that have been modified with devices to make them more efficient, and certain types of ammunition. Private possession of fully automatic weapons is prohibited, and handguns (pistols and revolvers) are permitted under license. Civilian possession of rifles and shotguns is regulated by law.


Russia does guarantee free health care, 48% of expenditures comes from government sources which primarily come from medical insurance deductions from salaries. While there appears to be private insurance there, the state insurance improved during the 90’s and 2000’s to be very competitive, then it’s quality significantly declined. Due to the Russian financial crisis since 2014, major cuts in health spending have resulted in a decline in the quality of service of the state healthcare system. About 40% of basic medical facilities have fewer staff than they are supposed to have, with others being closed down. Waiting periods for treatment have increased, and patients have been forced to pay for more services that were previously free.

In China, about 95% of the population has at least basic health insurance coverage. Despite this, public health insurance generally only covers about half of medical costs, with the proportion lower for serious or chronic illnesses. In urban areas, insurance isn’t free either. And in rural areas where it is, the quality of care varies widely.

North Korea claims to provide universal health care with a national medical service and health insurance system. North Korea claims that health services are offered for free. However, this claim has been contrasted by North Korean defectors, who claim that patients must in fact pay for health services, that the upper classes have access to a higher standard of healthcare than ordinary ones do, and that “how much money a patient has determines whether they live or die”.

Cuba’s national health system is made up of multiple tiers: 1) the community containing individuals and families, 2) family doctor-and-nurse teams, 3) basic work teams, 4) community polyclinics, 5) hospitals, and 6) medical institutes. The Family Physician and Nurse program is made up of physician and nurse teams that serve individuals, families, and their communities. Polyclinics are community-based clinics that house primary care specialists, and exist in every Cuban community. While preventive medical care, diagnostic tests and medication for hospitalized patients are free, some aspects of healthcare are paid for by the patient

Freedom of Speech

Cuba: The Cuban constitution recognizes the freedom of the press, and prohibits private ownership of the media. “Only 25 percent of Cubans use the internet, while only five percent of homes are connected”, making it one of the Americas’ least-connected countries. The Internet is censored; a number of websites are blocked, and access to information is scarce.North Korea: Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and nations such as the United States have asserted that, in practice, there is no right to free speech, and the only media providers that are deemed legal are those operated by the government.

China: The only people in China who can publish criticisms of, or opinions contrary to those of, the Communist Party, are senior members of the Communist Party. Academics and editors of China’s state-controlled publications are afforded somewhat less leeway than Party officials, but still more than the average person.

Russia: In 2019 Russia introduced new regulation commonly called “fake news law” which criminalizes publications containing “unreliable” information as well as opinions that show “disrespect for society, government, state symbols, the constitution and government institutions”. The law was criticized for vague wording allowing selective application e.g. against political opposition. Since 2009, the practice of the law enforcement agencies (most notably FSB) was to abuse newly introduced anti-extremism laws to suppress freedom of speech, including corruption investigations. On 31 March 2013, The New York Times reported that Russia was beginning ‘Selectively Blocking [the] Internet’.

That’s a glimpse of life under Trump as ‘president’ for life here. So, all those ‘rights’ you keep harping on, well, don’t worry, you won’t have them because we won’t have a Constitution. No Constitution, no rights. And if you think it can’t happen here, think again. He’s already trying to set the stage, with declaring the media “enemies of the government”, and “fake news” (hmm, look familiar?), telling us what he wants us to know around COVID-19, hiding his tax returns, installing his family and flunkies in positions of authority, and making us all question each other. It’s not too late to keep it from happening.

Vote on November 3.

Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 6.49.13 AM


Why Dan Patrick (and the GOP) Are Wrong

I heard Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick say something a while back on a news bite that made me stop in my tracks.

“There is no reason — capital N, capital O — no reason that anyone under 65 should be able to say I am afraid to go vote,” Patrick, a Republican, said in an interview with Fox News. “Have they been to a grocery store? Have they been to Walmart? Have they been to Lowe’s? Have they been to Home Depot? Have they been anywhere? Have they been afraid to go out of their house? This is a scam by the Democrats to steal the election.”

What? Is he serious? Unfortunately, he was. And he’s dead wrong too.Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 6.49.13 AM

There are many reasons why people under the age of 65 are afraid to go and vote with a pandemic. Anyone with a compromised or suppressed immune system is at very high risk of catching – and dying from – coronavirus. Their immune systems are just not able to fight off infections, either because the disease they have has made their body not able to fight off infections or because they are taking some kind of medication that has chemically suppressed their immune system. This could include people with different types of cancers either because of the disease, or because they are receiving chemotherapy, anyone who has HIV or AIDS, and anyone that has received an organ transplant. It could also include some people with psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, because some of the medication they take suppress the immune system as well. Heart disease? Check. Lung diseases like cystic fibrosis? Check. Crohn’s disease, having your spleen removed, bone marrow ablation, genetic immunodeficiency, diabetes and chronic kidney disease are also on the list. Guess what Mr. Patrick? All of those affect individuals of all ages.

Add to the group above everyone in their households, because if a spouse, significant other, child or parent brings home the virus, then the immunocompromised person could get it from them, and if they do, they will probably die because their immune system is unable to fight off infections. For some of them even a common cold means the risk of pneumonia, and getting a flu shot each year is critical. So, when coronavirus became a “thing”, and the CDC said “wash your hands”, they did. When the CDC said “wear a mask”, they did that too. And when their medical providers said “it’s not safe for you to work and be around so many people”, they either quit or took a leave of absence and thanked God for unemployment (if they had a state that wasn’t a complete cluster about it) and the stimulus.

How do I know this?  My husband was blessed 29 years ago with a kidney transplant, making our household one that is immunocompromised, thus we take many precautions to keep him safe. We wash our hands – a lot. We wear masks if we go out, and use hand sanitizer. I wipe down the groceries before they come in the house, and as a rule, I don’t go shopping for them in the store. I order them online, then go through the drive though that my grocery store offers and have the loaded in my vehicle. I order everything I possibly can online, trying to respect the delivery folks as much as possible by bundling my orders up and having a single delivery day. Neither of us has had a professional haircut in months (I’ve learned to cut my husband’s hair, and it actually doesn’t look too bad!), unlike you Mr. Patrick, who is freshly shorn by a stylist. I no longer enjoy luxuries I used to indulge in because they aren’t safe, like manicures or dining out. I wipe down surfaces in our home with bleach, as well as my car on the few occasions I do go out. I’ve seen my mother four times since March, and made her wear a mask each time. We do still attend church, but online. I will admit having gone to Home Depot but I don’t wander the aisles. I order what I need ahead of time when I can and have it waiting for me at customer service so I can get in and get out or have a plan so I am in and out quickly.

Now, maybe they don’t have these problems down in Texas, with folks getting sick or needing dialysis and transplants, or maybe Mr. Patrick, like so many members of the GOP is just so out of touch with real people and real problems that he’s just clueless to the realities of life. Of course, we’re now learning there is a third option, which is the public message they say on camera or through their Twitter feed, and the private message when they think few are listening. I suspect he knows the truth even if he won’t admit it publicly, and there isn’t one single thing he – or anyone else – can say to me to convince me to take risks that would endanger my husband’s life.

We’re under the age of 65 in this household, and have plenty of reason to NOT vote in person, Mr. Patrick. (And if you live in the Washington, DC area, as we learned this week you might have some new reasons for not voting in person, as POTUS and FLOTUS mutual COVID -19 diagnoses are the gift that keeps on giving.) Fortunately for us, we live in a progressive state that allows absentee voting without an excuse, and we are exercising that right. Neither you, your ignorance not your great desire to align with a man who believes that  herd mentality will save us, are going to put that at risk. And contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence of any kind that mailing in your ballot promotes voter fraud.

Note: Your vote counts. To find out if you can vote absentee in your state, and what the rule are, go to If you are concerned, like many of us are, about Louis DeJoy and the efforts he has undertaken to undermine the ability of the USPS to deliver your vote on time, please look to see if there is a location near you in your county with a drop box for your ballot. In ours, there are a number of them where ballots can be dropped beginning weeks before the election, so we don’t need to rely on the post office. If you live in Texas, you won’t be so lucky as the governor there has restricted drop offs to one location per county.

Vote. It could be your last chance.